Numbers are down, but that hasn’t stopped Escalon from putting a competitive varsity football team on the field this season.
Head coach Mark Loureiro, back for another year and with 268 wins to his credit, said this batch of Cougars works hard to uphold the winning tradition that is Escalon football.
Leading the way are several All-League returning players including Logan Widmer, Bo and Blue Capps and Danny Gonzalez.
Widmer, a senior guard and defensive lineman, is one of the team captains this year, as is senior defensive tackle and center Gonzalez. The Capps brothers, juniors this year, are guard and defensive lineman Bo, tackle and defensive lineman Blue.
Senior Dustin Lawrence, the third team captain, is a tight end and inside linebacker, while the addition of Tim Wallace, senior tackle and defensive lineman, has helped shore up the line.
“He was injured last year,” Loureiro said of Wallace, noting that he brings a solid presence to the line-up.
“We’re down to 34 kids, the classes have been low in numbers this year, even down to Pop Warner football so we have a lot of kids going both ways,” explained Loureiro.
The team’s offensive and defensive lines are their strengths, added the coach, and the squad still favors the run over the pass.
“We have our All-League running back Hunter Calton returning, he is a great weapon,” Loureiro said of the senior Calton, who also plays as an outside linebacker on defense while handling the bulk of the ball carrying duties on offense.
“We have a good fullback competition among three guys, Tim Costa (junior), Tyler Swinford (junior) and Trenton Busch (senior) plus we also are seeing some good things from returning players Cameron Puthoff, David Martinez, Chris Pilcher and Sam Lattig.”
Puthoff has made an impact at defensive back this season, Martinez is a running back and kicker, Pilcher is a running back and outside linebacker, with Lattig seeing time as a wide receiver and free safety.
Newcomer C.J. Gumbs, a junior, has provided spark as a running back and defensive back as well, along with showing some speed on kickoff and punt returns.
Also new to the varsity this season is quarterback Dylan Azevedo, a junior, who can also play free safety on defense.
“We’ve got other kids back, too, but we don’t have a lot of depth in positions,” Loureiro said.
Seniors Garrett Nebe, guard, defensive line; Wyatt Cockrell, tight end, outside linebacker; David Escove, tackle, defensive line; and Luis Estrada, running back, defense back, are among the returning Cougars looking to make an impact this season as well.
“Our kids play hard,” Loureiro said, noting that they get the most out of their ability and give it their all every time out on the field.
The Cougars compiled a 3-2 mark in preseason play and now enter Trans-Valley League competition, hosting Hughson on Friday night, Oct. 9.
“In this league, you can roll the dice,” Loureiro said. “It’s a toss-up, who can beat who on Friday night.”
Escalon will take on Hughson at home on Oct. 9, travel to Hilmar on Oct. 16, then host newcomer Mountain House on Oct. 23. They go to Ripon on Oct. 30 and host Modesto Christian for Senior Night on Nov. 6.
“Modesto Christian is defending league champion but they are 0-4, they lost to four larger division schools and they are playing with 18 kids right now,” Loureiro said.
Hilmar went 4-1 for the preseason, their only loss in overtime to Sonora, and they have several players up from the undefeated JV team of last year.
Hughson, off to a 5-0 start, has some key returners back and is in position to make a run at the title.
Ripon returns 26 players and also look strong, said Loureiro, going 2-3 in preseason and playing a tough schedule.
There are no ‘easy’ games or teams, Loureiro said, though Mountain House comes in as an unknown, fielding a varsity team this year for the first time.
For the most part, though, there is a lot of parity and no one can afford to let down, the coach said.
“On any given night, anybody can win any of those games,” he said of the Friday night showdowns. “If we win, they are going to be very hard fought, close games. We’re not an explosive team; we’re not going to run up a ton of points.”
The coach is approaching the season one game, one week at a time, not looking past anyone.
“It’s important for us to stay healthy,” he said. “We’re happy at 3-2 and if we didn’t make some mistakes, we could be 4-1.”
Coaching with Loureiro this year are Brandon Hoover, defensive coordinator; Ray Scott, defensive line; Matt Loretelli, offensive line and linebackers; and newcomer Brant Rose, offensive line and defensive backs.